In early 2015 the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (MDARD) disclosed in a routine Agriculture Commission meeting that a major feed contamination event had occurred during the fall of 2014. A farm in West Michigan reported to MDARD that 50,000 turkeys had suddenly died. An investigation was initiated that revealed contaminated feed was the culprit. A month later, it was discovered that 20,000 hogs on the same farm were also fed the contaminated feed, and after a 28-day withdrawal period were sent to market for human consumption. MDARD reported that the 50,000 turkeys and 450 tons of contaminated feed were disposed of but did not disclose the details of the disposal. This part of the story is represented in the small brown box that says "INDEX FARM" in the flow chart graphic.
The rest of the chart shows some of the other players in this contamination incident, which MDARD says spread to over 100 farms in at least 8 states. In a recent FOIA request MDARD was asked for information on human food samples that were tested for lasalocid in 2014 and 2015, as might be expected after widespread contamination of a drug in animal feed in Michigan. The answer from MDARD was unequivocal: No food samples were tested for lasalocid in Michigan in 2014 or 2015.
I routinely attend meetings of the Michigan Commission of Agriculture as the President of the Michigan Small Farm Council, and was present when the State of Michigan Veterinarian James Averill revealed the details of this incident to the Agricultural Commission at their meeting in January of 2015. As it turns out, this was the only public disclosure of this contamination incident, since neither MDARD nor Governor Snyder ever informed the public with a press release. And, surprisingly, although reporters for both MIRS and Gongwer were also present, and both reported on other agenda items from the meeting, neither news organization chose to report on the lasalocid feed contamination incident.
If known, this lasalocid contamination issue would surely have been of widespread interest to Michigan citizens. The first press release should have been in August of 2014 when the 50,000 turkey mortalities occurred, with a second press release in September when it was understood that 20,000 hogs had also been fed high levels of lasalocid, and a third when the investigation showed that the contamination had spread to more than 100 farms in at least 8 states. This level of disclosure would have been inconvenient since at the time Governor Snyder was engaged in a close re-election battle, and since MDARD would have had to prioritize food safety over its many other conflicting duties. However, it does seem that if the public had known about the lasalocid contamination incident in 2014 that the investigation would have extended to the testing of food samples, because the public would have demanded it.
Governor Snyder and MDARD may not consider this story worthy of a press release, but we disagree. Today the Michigan Small Farm Council issued a press release reporting the lack of lasalocid testing in food by our state government in 2014 or 2015. You can find it here.